The increasing legalization of marijuana is removing social stigmas. The latest hits intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA. A key Senate committee has voted to amend an intelligence oversight bill to let marijuana users work at intelligence agencies.
The bill once denied security clearances to applicants who admitted to using marijuana in the past. Now people will be considered for positions regardless of their cannabis histories.
The Amendment to the Bill that Will Let Marijuana Users Work at Intelligence Agencies
The bill that will let marijuana users work at intelligence agencies is called the Intelligence Authorization Act. It was passed unanimously by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It follows a 10-7 vote to adopt an amendment introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) that would consider applicants who admitted to using cannabis in the past.
“This bill includes historic bipartisan legislation reforming the country’s broken classification and declassification system. The bill also includes my provision to ensure that cannabis use will not disqualify intelligence community applicants from serving their country. It is a commonsense change to ensure the IC can recruit the most capable people possible,” Wyden stated in a press release.
Wyden had previously proposed a broader amendment that would remove discrimination against past cannabis use for applicants applying for any government position. However, the provision was scaled back due to a second-degree amendment from the panel’s chairman before it was accepted by the committee. Two GOP Senators objected to allowing the broader bill to be attached to the National Defense Act (NDAA) due to it containing language that referenced cannabis.
The text of the latest amendment bill won’t be available until the legislative council processes it. However, according to Wyden’s description, it is likely a tailored version of the proposal adopted by the Senate Committee last year to let past marijuana users work at intelligence agencies.
Bill That Will Let Marijuana Users Work at Intelligence Agencies Opens the Door for Attracting Top Talent
The bill to let marijuana users work at intelligence agencies is not only about removing cannabis-based stigmas. It’s about allowing organizations to find the best talent.
Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) states that the bill “furthers the Committee’s efforts to reform the security clearance process so that the IC can attract and expeditiously on-board a talented, diverse, and trusted workforce to meet the emerging challenges we face.”
Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines expressed a similar sentiment at a committee hearing in March.
“We recognize, frankly, that many states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana use and wanted to be sure that we’re not disqualifying people solely for that purpose in that context,” Haines stated.
“We believe that we want to have the talent that exists in America- and when somebody is using (cannabis) experimentally in a legal state that’s something that shouldn’t, on its own, essentially disqualify. We continue to approach this from a whole-person perspective. And we don’t expect if anybody takes the job to comply with our policies and our laws in a trusted position,” she went on to say.
A 2021 DNI memo stated that federal employers should not reject applicants due to past marijuana use. It also put in provisions for applicants with cannabis stock investments.
Past and Future Amendments Concerning Decisions to Let Marijuana Users Work at Intelligence Agencies
The latest bill to let marijuana users work at intelligence agencies is not the only one of its kind. Last year, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) filed an amendment requiring federal agencies to review security clearance denials as far back as 1971 and retroactively disallow past marijuana use as a reason to “deny or rescind” employment. But the measure was narrowly voted against by the floor committee.
Raskin said he would follow up by filing a standalone legislation on the matter, but he has yet to do so.
The U.S. Secret Service has also been doing its part in letting marijuana users work at intelligence agencies. It has updated its employment policy to allow applicants to become eligible for employment if they have not consumed cannabis in the last year. Previously, applicants would not qualify based on any past use.
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has also changed its tune. It no longer disqualifies applicants who have grown, sold, or manufactured cannabis in compliance with state laws from holding a “position of public responsibility”.
The FBI updated its employment policies in 2020. Previously, the organization would not hire an applicant who used marijuana in the past three years. Now it is considering applications from people who used it within one year of applying.
The updates to the agency’s employment policies have been a long time coming. Former FBI Director James Comey expressed a desire to amend its marijuana restrictions in 2014 stating that it was forcing the organization to pass on hiring skilled workers.
“I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cyber criminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” he said.
The CIA is also leaning towards letting marijuana users work at intelligence agencies. In 2020, the organization stated that using illegal drugs does not necessarily make you a bad person.
The media has also obtained documents from the federal Office of Personnel Management, an independent U.S. agency that manages civilian service. The agency stated it was proposing to adopt a more lenient attitude towards past cannabis use compared to the current policy.
In 2021, the Biden administration authorized waivers to be granted to federal job applicants who admitted past marijuana use, but some lawmakers have pushed for additional reform.
Recent statistics show that 30% of individuals between 18 and 30 have either withdrawn applications or refused to apply for federal jobs due to the strict marijuana policies in place.
The bill to let marijuana users work at intelligence agencies will benefit individuals and the agencies that hire them. It is a positive move forward for everyone involved. Hopefully, it will open doors for further reform in federal hiring practices.